Thursday, March 08, 2007

Merit Pay Chronicles: Kentucky Hoedown

Kentucky is the latest state to kill an effort to implement a pay-for-performance plan for teachers:
After strong resistance from a group of Kentucky teachers opposed to preferential teacher rewards, legislators introduced changes to two bills Wednesday that would do away with the teacher pay incentives proposed in the bills.

Senate Bills 1 and 2 would give bonuses to teachers whose students score high on Advanced Placement exams in science and math and provide stipends to certain math and science teachers. The Senate previously approved the bills, but the House has not acted on them.

The proposal, made before the House Appropriations and Revenue Committee, would instead pay expenses for teachers to participate in summer institutes in advanced science and math, provide funds for high schools to offer advanced science and math courses and supply grants to middle schools to support accelerated learning in science and math.

"Singling out a few teachers for a salary bonus, we did not believe is fair," said Kentucky Education Association President Frances Steenbergen. "We believe that the preschool teacher on up to the 12th-grade AP physics teacher, deserves huge increases in salaries."

Steenburgen said her group would look over the proposed changes to the bills to determine whether they were satisfied.

Proponents of the original bills believe the legislation would address the critical need for more math and science graduates in the state. Alicia Sells, a representative of the Kentucky School Boards Association, said the organization doesn't discount the concerns of teachers, but thinks a salary incentive for teachers in specialized subjects is needed.

"Like we saw in 1990 (with the Kentucky Education Reform Act), there are some things that are ultimately going to have to change," she said. "And we believe that attracting math and science teachers is going to take some additional resources."

While Sen. Ken Winters, R-Murray, who sponsored SB 1, was disappointed that the teacher bonuses were taken out of the bill, he understands the need to re-evaluate the legislation.

"The bulk of the modifications are well thought out and have great significance to enhancing the bill itself," he said.

Chairman Harry Moberly, D-Richmond, said House Appropriations and Revenue Committee leaders are still deciding on whether to vote on the bills.
The concern that we've always had with pay-for-performance schemes is how would teacher performance be objectively measured and incentives distributed fairly.

And it goes without saying that until students are also held accountable for their efforts, (or lack thereof) many teachers will continue to oppose the notion of linking teacher compensation based upon factors which are largely or wholly out of the teachers' control.

For example: Here in our part of California, teachers cannot require students to even attempt school/homework, bring paper/pencil, participate in classroom activities, or even stop-in for additional help after school.

Come to think of it, we cannot even direct students to attend after-school detention for disciplinary reasons or to make-up missed work.
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